President Obama didnt come right out and say it but it was pretty clear at his last press conference of 2016, that he thought the Vladimir Putin was involved in the election year email hacks.”>
In a press conference this afternoon, President Obama all but blamed Vladimir Putin for the hacks of the Democratic National Committee and John Podestaand all but said those hacks were intended to boost Trump.
When ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz asked if Putin himself was behind the hacks and intended them to damage Clinton, Obama was coy. The intelligence community is putting together an assessment, he said, and he would defer to their report, which will come out before he leaves office.
Then Obama paused.
Not much happens in Russia without Vladimir Putin, he said.
The odds that a rogue faction of the Kremlin stole emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and from the Democratic National Committee and then disbursed themwell, Obama said, thats far-fetched.
This is a pretty hierarchical operation, he said. Last I checked, theres not a lot of debate and democratic deliberation, particularly when it comes to policies directed at the United States.
This runs counter to President-elect Donald Trumps line; the mogul insists that theres no consensus in the intelligence community about Russias connection to the hacks, and that media coverage of the story is driven by a desire to delegitimize Trumps win.
Obamas answers at the press conference run completely counter to that. He said he knew this past summer that Russians had hacked the Democratic National Committee, he added, and he told them to stop it.
According to uniform intelligence assessments, he said, its indisputable that Russia was involved in the hacks. But he didnt discuss their motives during the campaign because he feared any comment would be seen as politically motivated.
At a time when anything that was said by me or anybody in the White House would immediately be seen through a partisan lens, I wanted to make sure everybody understood we were playing this thing straight, he said.
Obama added that he discussed the hacks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in September.
So in early September, when I saw President Putin in China, I felt that the most effective way to ensure that that didnt happen was to talk to him directly and tell him to cut it out and there were going to be serious consequences if he didnt, Obama said.
And, he added, it worked.
And in fact we did not see further tampering of the election process, he said. But the leaks through WikiLeaks had already occurred.
Obama also said it was obvious to him that the hacking hurt Clinton.
Im finding it curious that everybody is suddenly acting surprised that this looked like disadvantaging Hillary Clinton, because you guys wrote about it every day, he said. Every single leak, about every little juicy tidbit of political gossip. Including John Podestas risotto recipe. This was an obsession that dominated the news coverage.
But Russian propagandists had lots of help here at home, he continued. Without naming any specific outlets, he said partisan media outlets operated as domestic propagandists by doing reporting that comported with Russias preferred messaging. Talk radio had primed the pump for Russia, he suggestedtheir efforts to undermine peoples faith in American democratic institutions fell on open ears, thanks to media figures who say D.C. is rampant with corruption.
Still, despite his complaints about American media, he criticized Putins crackdowns on press freedom.
Mr. Putin can weaken us just like hes trying to weaken Europe if we start buying into notions that its ok to intimidate the press or lock up dissidents or discriminate against people because of their faith or what they look like, he said.